Debate: Should long putters be banned?

News & Tour

As a Major is won with one for the first time, two NCG writers assess their desirability

Yes they should, says Dan Murphy – a smooth putting stroke is one of the game’s essential skills

BACK in the day, broom-handles were wielded by those afflicted with the yips. In other words, they were the last resort. Anyone using a broom effectively advertised that they had major issues on the greens.
In amateur golf, certainly club golf, I would argue that is still the case. And it would certainly be harsh on those for whom a long putter is the only way they can remain competitive.
But unfortunately we have now reached the stage where young tour pros are learning to putt with the belly (and occasionally the broom) because they think it makes the game easier.
As PGA champion Keegan Bradley said after becoming the first player to win a Major using a long putter: “Personally, I think it’s an easier way to putt, especially when there are some nerves.”
Speak to an expert like Dave Pelz and he will tell you that the belly putter eliminates the wrists and encourages a smoother stroke.
They are making putting easier. And just as a poor chipper has to find a way of overcoming his weakness, or a wild driver a means to find the short grass more often, why should putting be treated differently?
Controlling your nerves to swing the putter through smoothly is an act of skill – having it anchored into your stomach removes the need. It isn’t right.
The easy solution would be bifurcation – ban them in the pro game but allow amateurs to keep using them.
Easy and mistaken.
Tempting though it is to make a different set of rules for the pros, I still believe the essence of golf’s appeal is the fact that we all play under the same umbrella of rules, with the same equipment.
And my message to all those amateurs who would no longer be able to use their long putters would be: “I sympathise with you, I really do, but we have to think about the greater good of the game.”

Key witness
“Knowing what I know now, I would have used it my whole career.” – Nick Price, three-time Major winner
The easy solution would be bifurcation – ban them in the pro game but allow amateurs to keep using them. Easy and mistaken.

No they shouldn’t, says Mark Townsend – a long putter is no guarantee of getting the ball in the hole

IT had to happen some time and now it has following Keegan Bradley’s win at the PGA. Finally, someone using a broom-handle or belly putter has won a Major and now everyone is up in arms. Twenty years after they first came in.
Anyone who has tried either of these methods will know that they are very far from straightforward to incorporate into your game and take a huge amount of practice. From what I have seen they, other than taking the wrists out of play, help to start the ball online but then there is the question of pace which is trickier. From distance they are certainly harder to use than a traditional length putter and, in rough conditions, wafting a broom-handle can be like battling with an unmanned hose.
With Adam Scott, Bradley and Webb Simpson winning in consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour they now appear to be the answer to any problem and are, supposedly, being ordered by the thousand. Delve a little deeper though and these winners’ putting efforts are just a small reason for getting over the line. 
Take Scott who switched to the broom-handle in February. Last year he was ranked 136th in putting average, this year he is 81st. For 3-putt avoidance, where you might expect to see an enormous improvement, he has rocketed up from 188th to..172nd. And from four feet and in where the longer wand can never fail? Another improvement, this time from 183rd to 147th. 
What will be interesting, and more worrying, is that if the likes of Bradley and Scott (or Kuchar, Els and Furyk) clean up in the next few years’ Majors there will be a generation of youngsters who grow up never using a conventional putter.
The general consensus among the older pros is that it is too late now to put a stop to the longer putter, the horse has bolted much as it has with the ball and the driver.

Key witness
“If it were going to be banned, it should have happened 20-plus years ago. It shouldn’t even be a consideration.” – Phil Mickelson, four-time Major winner

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